Witnessing Bill Clinton offer his version of his wife’s life story Tuesday night made me feel like I was watching an alternative version of the movie “Forrest Gump.”
Like Forrest, it turns out that Hillary Clinton has played a key role in almost every major event or accomplishment since the 1960s. I may have left the room briefly to grab a snack, which is probably why I missed Bill’s recounting of how Hillary helped map the human genome at the same time she was putting the finishing touches on Bluetooth technology. Unfortunately, Al Gore already claimed the Internet.
When Bill was finished, one was left with the impression that while others sleep, Hillary is up all night planning manned explorations to Mars and Jupiter, coming just this close to curing diabetes, while simultaneously making sandwiches for her grandchildren’s school picnic and pricing items for her neighbor’s yard sale.
At least Bill knows how to relax. Hillary never stops.
Bill’s telling of his life with Hillary was so remarkably rose-colored that it was almost admirable in its blatant disregard for facts that are well-ingrained in the public’s consciousness.
It’s one thing for the Average Joe to stand up and roll out a sanitized version of his life and times, which almost everyone does when afforded the opportunity. It’s quite another thing when one half of the world’s most public couple rewrites a history that everyone has been forced to watch unfold in the way that it really happened.
You almost have to smile in appreciation of the audacity it took for Bill to pull it off so unflinchingly and with such conviction.
And at the end, he actually said, “How did this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention? What’s the difference in what I told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can’t. One is real, the other is made up. You just have to decide. You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.”
Well, uh, okay, Bill. If you insist.
Americans watching on Tuesday, regardless of how they feel about the Clintons and regardless of their political leanings, had to almost admire the Clinton fairytale that was woven on that big stage in Philadelphia. It’s the way Bill and Hillary want everyone to remember the last 40-plus years, and probably the way they try to remember it, too.
When Bill opened with, “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” most of America had to smile a little uncomfortably, knowing he could have kept going in that vein. “And in 1974, I met a girl.” “And in 1982, I met a girl.” “And in 1986, I met a girl.” “And in 1996, I met a girl.” Really, Bill? You’re going there?
Much has been written over the years by amateur psychologists trying to pierce the veil of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Why did she stay with him? Why did he stay with her? What keeps them together?
The usual answer is political expediency. Hillary is a calculating, ambitious woman who overlooked and even helped cover up Bill’s failings to the point of taking part in the attacks against his many accusers, the explanation goes.
But maybe everyone should take a different approach. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that Hillary loves Bill, and Bill loves Hillary. Because you can make the argument that the more politically expedient choice for Hillary would have been to wash her hands of him, and she would actually be more respected and popular than she is.
If Hillary had walked away from Bill, she could have ruined him. He would not have survived two terms as president, and he would not have spoken at a convention or anywhere else outside of small-town Kiwanis clubs for the rest of his life. Hillary rescued Bill, not the other way around.
But she stood by him, and while we can speculate on countless Machiavellian reasons why, the simplest answer is often the most accurate answer. Hillary loves Bill, and Bill loves Hillary, even when evidence seems to contradict that notion, even when actions seem to indicate otherwise. As they say, it’s complicated.
The Clintons’ public and private lives are so well documented that nothing Bill said Tuesday night is going to change anyone’s personal memories of Bill and Hillary.
For all his efforts to credit Hillary for everything from ice cubes to rocket fuel, the love story he so guilelessly unfolded for a rapt audience inside the convention hall and for millions of head-scratching Americans watching on TV is perhaps closer to the truth than seems reasonable to acknowledge, on the surface.
Bill will turn 70 next month, Hillary 69 in October. They’ve weathered many storms, celebrated many triumphs. It is, in a convoluted way, strangely admirable to see them continue to defend and bolster each other through thick and thin. Through good times and bad times, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, right? Who can blame them for remembering their lives the way they want? Who among us can fault them from our glass houses?
Donald Trump will likely be elected president in November, because this is a change election, and because the Democratic Party seems blind to the issues Americans are most concerned about now. Despite Bill’s revisionist Hillary history, she is not the agent of change. But when she makes her concession speech on election night, Bill will be at her side, smiling and applauding her.
An unconventional love story it has been, but its core as told by Bill may be the closest thing to truth that we got from him on Tuesday, and which we will get again from Chelsea and Hillary on Thursday. God bless their little family.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.
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